Trailer for Trumbo movie Looks Great!

I love movies about writers and the power of writing so when I noticed the trailer for Trumbo, based on the life of blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo, I had to see it right away – and I did and now I recommend you see both the trailer – and the film.  The script was adapted from the book by Bruce Cook (which is also worth reading) by John McNamara, who I remember pitching to when he was a producer on The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. (which was the show he did before his long run on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which itself was the ‘new Superman’ before Smallville arrived on the scene).

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Anyway, what I enjoyed about the trailer is the idea that this is not just a plot-laden movie about the guy who wrote Roman Holiday (another movie you should see) with a front during the Blacklist;  Trumbo the movie looks to be a movie about ideas and the freedom of speech and thought that is at the heart of the Constitution of the United States.  As I said, I love movies about writers and the journeys to find their own voices and Trumbo’s story is one of those – along with the chance to make choices about what is worth standing for in this world – and the fact that those choices can lead to sacrifices – he spent 11 months in jail.  And as you’ll see in the trailer – John Goodman is in the movie so how can it miss?

Dr. Rosanne Welch on Panel for Redlands Film and Beer festival – Oct. 22-25, 2015

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I will be part of this panel discussion at the Redlands Film and Beer festival, October 22-25, 2015 with Daniel Petrie, Jr.. Join us as we use Star Wars to discuss a host of screenwriting concepts and how this movie, and it’s writer, Lawrence Kasdan, changed screenwriting forever.


‘Beverly Hills Cop’ writer will return to Redlands for Film and Beer fest
By Tabetha Wittenmyer, Correspondent

For more information or to sign up for the Redlands Film and Beer festival, email info@slate-inc.org or go to http://slate-inc.org.

REDLANDS >> Redlands nonprofit SLATE Inc. (Supporting Local Artists of Film Through Empowerment), has announced the first panel discussion leader for this year’s Film and Beer festival: the “Beverly Hills Cop” writer.

Daniel Petrie Jr., best known for writing and producing such popular ’80s films as “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Turner and Hooch,” will be on hand to answer questions in the first panel discussion.

The 2015 festival will use the theme “Star Wars” to help stimulate film industry discussions among festival attendees.

“The first industry panel we are doing is about how ‘Star Wars’ changed filmmaking and impacted the industry,” said SLATE Inc. founder Lucas Cuny. “Petrie is an industry insider who has served twice as the president of the screenwriters guild. He will be a great addition to the discussion.”

Petrie graduated from the University of Redlands in 1975. Cuny said Petrie’s industry experience and ties to Redlands make him an ideal addition to the festival.

“People can relate to someone who spent time here and has gone on to big things in the film world,” Cuny said. “He is an old friend. We were discussing the first Slate festival while I was very early in the planning stages. He said to me, ‘Everyone has a film festival. What is going to make yours different?’ That’s when I thought let’s get some beer involved, especially being in an area with craft breweries and a great food scene.”

Rosanne Welch, a radio, TV and film department adjunct professor at Cal State Fullerton will also serve on a panel discussion. Welch was a professor of Cuny’s while he was working toward his master’s degree at CSUF over the past few years.

Proceeds from the Redlands Film and Beer Festival will be used for ongoing efforts to benefit local film and media artists.

Quote: It’s so dangerous to give a name to a gangster (the liability of lawsuit is so great) that they use the names of employees in the Research Department over and over…”

Fun fact of the day: I’m reading It’s the Pictures That Got Small — the diaries of Charles Brackett who co-wrote “Sunset Boulevard” and “Titanic” in the 1950s and I found him noting,

“It’s so dangerous to give a name to a gangster (the liability of lawsuit is so great) that they use the names of employees in the Research Department over and over…”

Too funny! I’d love to do research comparing the MGM employee roles to the gangster characters in their films!

You can get the book at Amazon.com or perhaps from your local library.

News: WGA Presentation to students of FAMU Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts of Prague

On Wednesday January 7th I had the great pleasure of attending a special lecture given by writer-producer Jeff Melvoin to the students of Pavel Jech, Dean of the world renowned FAMU Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. What fun to spend a morning discuss the differences in how our two countries prepare writers to work in these areas!

News: WGA Presentation to students of FAMU Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts of Prague

Jeff gave a great presentation on A Day in the Life of an American Showrunner, based on lectures he gives for the Showrunner program he helped found at the Writers Guild of America, West. Then we all walked over to the 3rd Street Farmers Market for lunch and casual conversation.

I was particularly interested because my father was Czechoslovakian but since he left when I was so young, I’ve never learned much about the country or its history (in fact most of what I learned I learned from reading the memoir former Secretary of State Madeline Albright wrote – Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948). So it was interesting to meet with students who could have been me had my father’s parents never emigrated to the U.S.

The whole day was arranged by Ken Lazebnik, Director of the new MFA in TV and Screenwriting for Stephens College, with whom I am proud to be working to get this new program up and on its feet.

Perlasca: An Italian Holocaust Hero Nearly No One Knows

Perlasca poster

Recently Netflix offered me Perlasca, an Italian film starring Luca Zingaretti partly because I use Netflix to watch hard to find foreign films and partly because I watched an Italian detective series called Montalbano he starred in for several years. Whatever the reason, I saw that it was based on the life of Giorgio Perlasca, now known as the Italian Oskar Schindler for the many Jewish people he saved while trapped in Hungary during WWII. He did it by pretending to be Spain’s lead diplomat for nearly 2 months, the time it took for the Russians to chase the Nazi’s out of Hungary.

Giorgio was in Hungary as part of his job finding food supplies for the Italian army but when Italy joined the Allies and the Nazi’s started rounding up the Italians he went to the Spanish Embassy for help (because he had fought in the Spanish Civil War and he knew they owed him a favor). There they were writing hundreds of fake passes to Hungarian citizens of Jewish descent, pretending they were Spaniards and therefore under the safety of the Spanish embassy. Instead of using his fake passport to exit the country, he stayed behind to help hand write more passports. BUT then Spain ordered the embassy closed so that it wouldn’t look like they were accepting the Nazi takeover of Hungary. The legitimate ambassador had to leave and offered to take Giorgio safely out of the country BUT instead Giorgio stayed behind, wrote a fake letter making him the head counsel to the embassy and continued to write passes and protect several apartments full of Hungarian Jews from deportation. He even went toe to toe with Eichmann while pulling people off trains by pretending their names were on his list of Spanish citizens. Amazing.

While the book written about Girogio Perlasca is rather stilted, and the film offered a couple of over-the-top sentimental moments, the chance to learn about such an interesting man was worth taking. So while I wasn’t originally a fan of the randomness of Netflix (when you relied on them to mail you films to watch based on availability rather than the mood you were in at the time), I have come to learn the beauty of Netflix (borrowed from Amazon, its older 2nd cousin twice removed) is that is can help you stumble upon stories worth knowing. The story of Giorgio Perlasca certainly fits that bill. Check it out.

Read the Book/Watch the Movie

Perlasca via Netflix

Book | Amazon Instant Video | Netflix

Book: Rosanne’s Reasons Why “Eat, Pray, Love” Ought to be in the Parenting Section

I’m going to begin by honestly confessing that I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert this week on the excuse that I needed to in order to discuss adaptations in my writing classes. Then I have to confess that I loved it. Sure, the author wallows a bit much in her lousy divorce during the Italy section rather than giving me more Italy, and yes the ending is a bit fairytale princess-y for me. But it also stayed true to a theme I first read in the 1970s in a piece of teen girl lit that had been published back in 1946 – Going on Sixteen by Betty Cavanna. The theme of both pieces is: You have to be yourself before anyone else can love you. ‘Cause if you perfect the art of being someone else and then someone falls in love with that fabrication, it will end badly for both of you.

That’s a long lead in to this week’s guest posting for Dawn while she’s enjoying a couple weeks on what I like to teasingly call her ‘Family Estate’ on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m pleased to be asked to fill in for her as we so enjoy working together (though, of course, this doesn’t involve us even being in the same room, which is the only bummer).

So what does Eat, Pray, Love have to do with parenting? That question takes us right back to my love of the theme. It’s my sincere belief that this may be the greatest lesson we teach our children in their time with us – to love who they are and not try to be anything else, certainly not merely to attract someone to them. Funny how humans need to keep being told the same thing over and over again before it finally sinks in. But it is not funny to realize how many adults I’ve met over my career who were never taught this. And ya’ know what that means? Massive amounts of insecure grown-ups leading lives of not-so-quiet desperation as our trouble-making, diva-bad-behaving bosses, neighbors and friends. Who wants to raise their kid to be those people? And yet, somehow, so many people do. I imagine it’s not the kind of thing we often realize, especially if we had no self-esteem given to us in our own childhoods. But that means we have to work on our own security issues so we don’t pass that on down to our kids, which in the end is true to our entire career as parents – it’s our job not to continue negative cycles.

What is does NOT mean is that we compliment them every time they do something as basic as taking dishes to the kitchen or emptying the dishwasher. Or that we give them participation ribbons for merely being on a team or taking part in some practically mandatory event such as a school fundraising Jogathon. That kind of behavior creates the silliness we read about now where the current generation of overly-complimented kids need to be thanked for showing up to work on time in the ‘real’ world. I fervently doubt it teaches them they are special as it is clear everyone is getting the same participation ribbon, trophy or medal.

Face it folks, we’ve raised a particularly smart bunch of kids in the last generation or so and they catch on quick when an award means nothing. My favorite story on that count comes from the First Grade Science Fair my son’s school ran to give them a taste for choosing a topic, doing age-appropriate research and filling out those 3-part foam core boards. Our school even had judges come in and interview all the children about their projects. Because one of the parents before the event vociferously insisted that awarding place ribbons (first, second and third) would cause crying among the children who didn’t win, the whole class full of parents decided not to award any place ribbons. When the judges were through and the students all streamed back into the auditorium I watched my son grab the ribbon off his project and shout to the kid next to him, “I won a ribbon!” But then that other kid said, “So did I.” They proceeded to compare their ribbons and found that they were identical participation ribbons. Then they proceeded to toss the ribbons on the ground and go back to checking out each other’s displays, wondering who received the ‘real’ ribbons.

I take that lesson into the orientation classes I teach at local colleges. In the last class it is recommended that we get the students in groups and have them come up with award titles for the kids in the other groups so that everyone is acknowledged for having taken part in the class. You already know how I feel about that philosophy so what do you think I do? I explain that idea to the students, then I tell them the story about the First Grade Science Fair ribbons, and then I hand out large chocolate bars to the top 5 or 7 or 9 kids (no need to round out to an even 10 if an even 10 didn’t stand out in my mind) with silly awards written on the wrapper such as “Contributing in Class King” or “Most Attentive” or “Best Reader”. Heck, I even do “Most Likely to Succeed in College” ‘cause it’s such an American icon.

Anyway, I highly recommend Eat, Pray, Love (and Going on Sixteen) and any other reading that reminds us of this all important lesson that we must love ourselves as we are.

AND if any of you are writers out there and need my adaptation-studying excuse for reading Gilbert’s book, then I also recommend the Written By Magazine article about adapting Eat, Pray, Love into a movie which you can read online. See Page 27 for the article.

Surprised by the Good Read GIDGET turned out to be!

While I have much grading to do as always, I was drawn to spend the weekend reading Gidget (by Frederick Kohner) thanks to my friend Ken Lazebnik’s book Hollywood Digs which includes an interview with the real life Franzie Kohner who IS Gidget.  In fact, she kindly appeared with Ken at a book reading he did in Malibu recently.

Before actually reading the book I didn’t know gidget stood for “girl midget” since she was so small on her surfboard (and now wonder how many women were named Gidget without now that); I didn’t know her father was a refugee from Nazi Germany who came to LA to be a screenwriter; and I didn’t know the book was going to be so good (both Gidget AND Hollywood Digs! – which I  knew would be good because Ken is such a wonderfully evocative writer). I suggest them both.

Turns out when it was released  Gidget was compared favorably to Catcher in the Rye by book critics… and probably  lost its edge in readers’ minds thanks to the bubblegum reputation the films gave the story – compounded by the fact that it was a girl’s coming of age story and not a boy’s.  I learned long ago in teaching American Literature, to an all girl high school of all things, that educators believe girls will read about boy protagonists (in an effort to understand them enough to hook them) but boys will not be as enthusiastic about reading the story of a girl protagonist).  So schools adjusted and chose mostly books with male protagonists for high school students of both sexes to study, which means boys lost the chance to learn the lessons first generation immigrants surviving economic hardship from A Tree Grows in Brooklynamong other losses.

Of course, the advent of such things as The Hunger Games trilogy seems to belie that idea — but you’ll notice publishers felt that in order to engage boy readers Katniss needed to wield a weapon, not merely master a craft like surfing.  Another reason to return to reading Gidget.

And all of this mulling reminds me of a TED Talk on How Movies Teach Manhood that  I showed students the other day by Colin Stokes, director of communications for the non-profit Citizen Schools.  He compares the heroine of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale from Kansas, to Luke Skywalker of everyone’s much beloved Star Wars and finds that Dorothy triumphs by mastering the leadership skills of working with others and bringing them together toward a common goal that benefits all while Luke triumphs as an individual by mastering a violent skill that requires killing the enemy to win.

My comparison between Gidget and Catcher seems similar in that Gidget experiments in the world of romance and sex without needing to make the acquaintance of a hooker – yet high schools read Holden’s story as literature and are never exposed to Gidget’s story at all.

Rosanne’s Top 5 Books for Film Buffs

Here are my Top 5 picks for the best books for film buffs.

Dunne, John Gregory. Monster: Living Off the Big Screen. New York: Random House, 1997.

Even though it’s about a film made in 1996 that even die hard Robert Redford fans have not likely seen (Up Close and Personal), this book about writing a blockbuster film by John Gregory Dunne discusses Hollywood honestly – especially as it deals with married screenwriters like he and his wife Joan Didion.

Harmetz, Aljean . The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. Hyperion, 2002.

You don’t need to love the film to like this book about how a classic came together. I like the way Harmetz gives backgrounds on all the supporting characters and we learn how many were refugees from Nazi regimes.

McGillligan, Patrick. Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

McGillligan has 4 more books in this series – each one containing long, interesting interviews with screenwriters from a particular era from the 1920s to the 1990s. And as we all know, writers are highly entertaining conversationalists!

Messenger, Chris. The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became “Our Gang.” Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

What’s to say except this is a great book if you love The Godfather – but even if you don’t it is a good reminder of how certain movies become entrenched in our national culture – and can do things like make us more comfortable with minorities so that they soon become majorities.

Norman, Marc. What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting. New York: Harmony Books, 2007.

This is the history of how screenwriters got screwed out of being considered the legal ‘authors’ of the works they write!